Murder by Accident
Medieval Theater, Modern Media, Critical Intentions
Over fifty years ago, it became unfashionable—even forbidden—for students of literature to talk about an author’s intentions for a given work. In Murder by Accident, Jody Enders boldly resurrects the long-disgraced concept of intentionality, especially as it relates to the theater.
Drawing on four fascinating medieval events in which a theatrical performance precipitated deadly consequences, Enders contends that the marginalization of intention in critical discourse is a mirror for the marginalization—and misunderstanding—of theater. Murder by Accident revisits the legal, moral, ethical, and aesthetic limits of the living arts of the past, pairing them with examples from the present, whether they be reality television, snuff films, the “accidental” live broadcast of a suicide on a Los Angeles freeway, or an actor who jokingly fired a stage revolver at his temple, causing his eventual death. This book will force scholars and students to rethink their assumptions about theory, intention, and performance, both past and present.
“Jody Enders’ Murder by Accident offers an extraordinary amalgam of historical work and contemporary theory. We have here, as in her earlier work, richly detailed evocations of the social world of medieval spectacle. But we also have the theoretical and ethical concerns that her historical readings raise brought front and center. This book engages issues critical to anyone interested in art or in accountability (legal and moral)—that is, all of us.”
“Enders is a remarkable scholar who uses the intellectual freedoms accorded to theater historians to the fullest. Not constrained by the limitations of historians or literary scholars, she moves easily between fact and fiction, medieval and modern. But what will always delight readers of Enders's work is the sheer pleasure of her style, her insights, and her asides.”
“Once again Jody Enders has given us a brilliantly new perspective on the premodern dramatic tradition. In its graceful recovery of intention as the very ground of theatrical knowledge, Murder by Accident represents a signal contribution to some of the most pressing questions in the humanities today.”